Defining Work

Defining Work: Gender, Professional Work, and the Case of Rural Clergy

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Defining Work
    Book Description:

    Based on interviews with forty rural Protestant clergy, Mellow argues that male and female clergy challenge gendered definitions of work by focusing on obligation, context, visibility, and time. She also considers how clergy's work is shaped by the rural setting, arguing that we must consider how work is "placed" as well as gendered.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6020-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    This book focuses on the question of how work, and particularly the professional work of rural clergy, comes to be defined. I am interested in how definitions of professional work are socially constructed and how such definitions pose different challenges for women and men in negotiating the relationship between their professional and their personal lives. I argue that our understandings of work are shaped by the intersection of occupational culture, gender, and locale. I use the termoccupational cultureto highlight the influence of norms, beliefs, language, and institutionalized practices which are common across an occupation and help to give...

  5. 2 Conceptualizing Work
    (pp. 19-47)

    This chapter has two parts. The first lays out the feminist critique of conventional definitions of work, considers how this applies to professional work and to work in rural places, and discusses strategies for re-conceptualizing work. The second half of the chapter reviews the literature on the work of clergy that is relevant to this discussion. Ministry confounds some of the conventional notions of work and therefore constitutes a particularly rich site in which to study the way individuals reproduce and challenge gendered conceptualizations.

    By and large, the sociology of work has “focused on the meaning of work for the...

  6. 3 The Context of This Study: Methodology and Respondents
    (pp. 48-59)

    This chapter outlines how I selected and interviewed the forty clergy whose experiences provide the basis for this book. The latter sections of the chapter also give an overview of who these individuals were and the context in which they lived and worked. All the clergy interviewed were ordained ministers in the United Church of Canada. Although this study is confined to clergy from a single denomination, I believe that many of their experiences in negotiating professional demands and private life are likely to be common to clergy of other Protestant denominations who work in rural settings.

    The United Church...

  7. 4 Ambiguity: An Essential Component of the Profession
    (pp. 60-79)

    In various ways, ministry seems ambiguous as work, despite the formalized aspects of ritual leadership and preaching. I use the idea of ambiguity to reflect the fact that the work of clergy is often situated in settings or activities that do not appear work-like by conventional standards, happens at unexpected times, and may merge or overlap with community and domestic responsibilities. For example, respondents define nurturing relationships as a priority in their work and often accomplish such nurturing through informal and impromptu social encounters, such as those that occur while picking up one’s mail the post office. Glucksmann (1995, 65)...

  8. 5 Defining Work in Accountable Ways
    (pp. 80-105)

    Professional work is not typically linked to discussions of how one accounts for work. Legitimating what one does or accomplishes on a daily basis to those outside the occupation, or even to other professional colleagues, is not seen as a major concern for most professionals. Yet because ministry so frequently merges with other kinds of activity, and because clergy ideally work in a collegial fashion with laity, defining work in accountable ways becomes an important issue for this profession. Clergy must be able to define professional work for themselves in order to justify when they have done enough and to...

  9. 6 Defining Emotional Boundaries
    (pp. 106-126)

    As the previous chapters have shown, nurturing relationships is central to the work of clergy. As well, clergy must relate to parishioners not just as clients but as neighbours and fellow community members. Thus, emotional labour is central to ministry, whether it involves clergy attending to the emotions of others or controlling their own feelings towards parishioners. Clergy are unusual precisely because they are high-status workers who focus on emotional and relational work, which is usually seen as work of a lower status, if it is seen as work at all. Clergy construct emotional labour as an appropriately professional pursuit...

  10. 7 Negotiating the Boundary between Public and Private
    (pp. 127-152)

    Feminist theory holds that a masculine model of work rests on the separation of work and home, of public and private. “Real” work is what men do in the public domain; by extension, what is done in private – what women do, including caring for families – is not work. Feminist writers have also demonstrated that the organization of paid work at all class levels is dependent on the organization of work in the domestic realm (Armstrong and Armstrong 2003; Glucksmann 1990; Seron and Ferris 1995; Wajcman 1998, 132–57). One cannot understand one without the other. Any consideration of how a...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 153-166)

    Rural clergy present several anomalies that must be accounted for in feminist theorizing of work. Ministry confounds assumptions about how emotional and relational work are usually marginalized in or excluded from masculinized work and professional occupations. Boundaries between public and private appear to be blurred – in terms of space, roles, and relationships – and this ambiguity seems to contradict the dichotomization of social life for which male work norms are typically criticized. Ministry also begs the question of how the relationship between volunteer work in the community – a domain frequently associated with women – and professional work is to be understood.


  12. APPENDIX ONE: Methodological Notes
    (pp. 167-171)
  13. APPENDIX TWO: Coding Categories
    (pp. 172-176)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 177-182)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-196)
  16. [Index]
    (pp. 197-204)